Be all the things you want to be! Mature age students bring a wealth of experience and life skills

Be all the things you want to be! Mature age students bring a wealth of experience and life skills

By Susan Burdett
01 May 2017
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Lisa Oliver Diploma of Community Services

Our mature-age students are full of determination and definitely up to the challenges of balancing the demands of an already-busy life with the requirements of study.

Community Services student, Lisa Oliver, is meeting all the challenges and also looking forward to her options at University. Lisa said that even though being a mum was her priority, she could still do this.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in life, you can always do something to improve it. Education is always the key.”

As part of her enrolment into the Diploma of Community Services, Lisa is also part of Wodonga TAFE’s new ‘diploma2degree’ program. This means she is dual-enrolled and has a place at La Trobe University in the Bachelor of Community Services or Human Services if she chooses to continue with her study.

“I would never have thought I would go on to a degree; however, if I choose to continue I have a guaranteed place. I can’t wait to see how things go from now – I’m so excited about what’s next!”

In talking about her journey back to study, Lisa explained that she’d taken time out of the workforce to have a family and realised once her children were in school, that her own employment skills were no longer current.

“I didn’t have computer skills and I found it quite confronting not knowing the answers when my daughter came home with questions.”

“So, as scary as the thought was, I decided that I needed to update my skills. Initially I felt like I didn’t have the confidence to embark on a TAFE course straight away, so I went to my local Neighbourhood Centre to gain basic computer operating skills.

Lisa said that all she thought about was that there would be a lot of young people at TAFE, fresh out of school and already at the expected academic level. She was worried that she didn’t have the required skills.

“The TAFE administration department were very supportive and easy to talk to. After having the initial conversation I enrolled in an information technology certificate and I really enjoyed the course content. The successful completion of this course landed me a job with what I had learned. The first phone call I made, I got the job!”

“My new job role was in admin – it was part-time and perfectly fitted with the kids, so it really suited me at that time.”

Several years later, that job ended and Lisa found herself again needing to do more study.

“There are too many barriers in gaining employment without recognised qualifications, that piece of paper is what employers are looking for. I hadn’t studied any further whilst being employed in admin for over 7 years, I needed to improve my skills again.”

“I pushed myself out of my comfort zone again, and enrolled in the Certificate IV in Business Administration with Wodonga TAFE.”

However, Lisa had also realised that her passion was people.

“I want to help disadvantaged and vulnerable people. I want to help children – and I want to help women.”

Whilst at TAFE, Lisa met up with a friend who was studying the Diploma of Community Services and said that the course sounded just like what she wanted to do.

“Considering this more, I thought maybe I could do it. This really planted the seed to take on more study. The course information night was also within just a few days’ time – it was like it was meant to be!”

Lisa went along to the course information evening and said that when she heard it explained, the course sounded exactly like what she wanted to do.

“The way they explained it – I thought, this is where I want to be, this is what I want to learn!”

The boost she needed to go through with the application came from another family member.

“My mum re-trained with her new job”, said Lisa. “That really motivated me! I thought – if mum can do that, I can do that too. ‘SO WHAT’ about age! So I bit the bullet and applied for the course.”

Lisa said she’s felt really connected with her course and the teachers have been very supportive.

“I’m realising that you don’t have to be the most studious to do well. Working in this field, it’s about having empathy and understanding, about having people skills and being able to relate to people. It’s about being open-minded and connecting with people. Yes, it has been challenging at times, but what I’ve learned as a person I’ll take with me my whole life.”

Lisa also said that at one stage she really struggled to complete her business admin qualification while also juggling the start of her diploma, and she had to push herself to prioritise her work to finish the certificate.  

“To finally complete and receive my certificate was really exciting. The sense of achievement really motivated me to continue to do better with the diploma. I’m finding the admin and computer skills I’ve learned at TAFE are helping me a lot with this course.”

Lisa has also recognised the value of her life experience that she brings to her study as a mature age student.

“I have this whole world of experience and life skills to bring to this course and to my future.”

Lisa said that she was really excited to be pulling it all together.

“I am planting the seed with my teenage girls – that yes, it is hard to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself – I want to show them that, as a female, as a mum, you can be all of the things you want to be. Their excitement for me and my personal growth, is priceless!”

I want to promote to people of all walks of life, “What I’ve gained from this course – it’s for life!”

And Lisa’s advice for others?

“You’re always going to get something out of your study so there is nothing to lose. It is your choice to be there and you are in control of your learning. It’s a completely different mindset when you are studying by choice, you are there because you want to be there.”

“And importantly, no matter how long you’ve been in a job – study. It definitely matters about having those pieces of paper in your resume. No matter how safe and secure you think you are in your job – you need to stay up-to-date.”